Carson: I Could Have Been Clearer on West Point Narrative
Politico reported that Carson fabricated a key part of his life story in his best-selling memoir, "Gifted Hands."
Later, Carson spoke out about the story, prompting some updates to Politico's narrative and a change in headline. The site included an editor's note saying the news outlet stood by the story.
"POLITICO stands by its reporting on this story, which has been updated to reflect Ben Carson’s on the record response," the site noted. "The original story and headline said that Carson’s campaign had admitted he 'fabricated' a 'full scholarship' from West Point, but now Carson denies that his campaign’s statement constituted such an admission, and the story and headline were changed to reflect that."
In the 1996 book, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon boasts of a 1969 meeting with Gen. William Westmoreland, who commanded American troops in Vietnam, after which Carson writes he was offered a "full scholarship" to the West Point military academy.
Politico quoted Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett on the issue, writing that the campaign "conceded" he had never applied.
"Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit," Bennett wrote in an email to Politico, which had questioned the story.
"In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can't remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson's performance as ROTC City Executive Officer.
"He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors. They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it, but in the end did not seek admission."
The Carson campaign is furious at what it says is Politico's taking a spokesman's explanation meant to back the candidate's account of events and portraying it as some kind of confession.
"In the story itself, the campaign does not say Dr. Carson applied to West Point," Carson friend and adviser Armstrong Williams told The Washington Post. "Dr. Carson boasts about his scores in ROTC. Westmoreland encourages him to apply. As Dr. Carson says, they were impressed by his scores, but he never applied.
"They said to him, we could get you in. This guy got into Yale -- obviously he could have got in. The headline was a fabrication."
Politico says when it asked West Point about the matter, the academy responded: "In 1969, those who would have completed the entire process would have received their acceptance letters from the Army Adjutant General."
But spokeswoman Theresa Brinkerhoff added West Point has no records showing Carson began the application process.
"If he chose to pursue [applying to West Point], then we would have records indicating such," she said.
The fabrication scandal comes in the wake of Carson's tirade against CNN's investigation into his background as a "bunch of lies."
The cable news network said it could not corroborate Carson's accounts of his "violent past and descriptions of the healing powers of his faith."
But Carson shot back: "This is a bunch of lies attempting to say I'm lying about my history, I think it's pathetic, and basically what the media does is they try to get you distracted."
At a news conference Friday, Carson excoriated the media for having "a desperation … to try to find a way to tarnish me."
"They have been talking to everybody I've ever known, everybody I've ever seen," Carson told reporters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
"There's got to be a scandal. "There's got to be some nurse he's having an affair with. There's got to be something. They are getting desperate."